Over the years I have found that most players are kinesthetic learners first, visual second, and verbal third when it comes to the Parallel Mode Process. That makes for a tough teaching assignment simply because the PMP is based on a unique visual strategy that is dramatically different from the normal visual strategy of watching the ball. This hierarchy of learning styles means that kinesthetic learners (most people) have to be given a physical task that includes the fixed-depth of focus visual strategy as an integral part of the physical process of making contact with the ball.
The kinesthetic task of defending their imaginary window with their strokes requires them to do something physical while simultaneously visualizing an imaginary window in front of them. The visualization of an imaginary window in front of them causes them to switch from variable-depth of focus to fixed-depth of focus automatically. And since the main focal requirement of playing tennis in the zone is a fixed-focus state, this kinesthetic approach of defending their imaginary window causes them to create a fixed-focus state.
Usually within the first minute or two the player slips into a fixed-focus state and immediately begins to experience his/her peak performance state. It happens fast and the difference in the level of performance they experience is dramatic. The challenge they face from this point forward is to learn how to maintain this fixed-focus state while they play, and that is by no means an easy challenge.
In fact, many people walk away from the challenge. It is simply more visual and mental work than they are willing to put into their game. And yet these same people will take traditional lessons out the kazoo in an attempt to play at a higher level. The concept being, if I can only improve my technique, then I will also improve my game. That’s like my saying that if I can only improve my pronunciation then I will be able to sing on key.
Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way with singing or with tennis. I can pronounce every word of the song perfectly and still be a lousy singer. Likewise people can learn all the “proper” techniques and still be lousy tennis players. The irony is, when they learn all the proper techniques they will at least look good as they play lousy, and for some people, looking good is what matters most.
What gets me, however, is that they could actually learn to perform at their highest level if they would just let go of trying to look good all the time. The game is all about the performance of your techniques, not the techniques themselves. In other words, a player with 3.5 level techniques who performs those techniques efficiently and accurately will out-play a player with 4.0 level techniques who performs those techniques inefficiently and inaccurately. The 4.0 player might look like the better player, but the 3.5 player wins the performance battle.
So the question boils down to what causes you to perform at your highest level? What causes you to perform your techniques –at whatever their level – more efficiently and more accurately during competition?
The answer to those questions is what the Parallel Mode Process is all about.